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We provide guidance to services to ensure health and care professionals have the training they need to support those with learning disabilities

Learning disability

Over 1.2 million people in England have a learning disability and face significant health inequalities compared with the rest of the population.

People with a learning disability, autism or both often experience poorer access to healthcare.

About 20% to 30% of people with a learning disability also have autism.

The term learning disability and intellectual disability are used by different people and organisations to describe the same condition. Learning disability is the official term used by NHS England and is used for a child or adult with a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities (Valuing People 2001 NHS England). The term intellectual disability is used by the World Health Organisation and some countries.

Our vision

Children, young people and adults with a learning disability, autism or both have the right to the same opportunities as anyone else to live satisfying and valued lives, and to be treated with dignity and respect.

People with a learning disability should have a home of their own within their community, be able to develop and maintain relationships, and have the support needed to live healthy, safe and rewarding lives.

Learning Disability Nurses

HEE has been working in partnership with other organisations to create the All-England Plan for Learning Disability Nurses. This is an easy-read version. The plan outlines our commitment to making sure we have enough learning disability nurses in the future and details how the NHS plans to improve the quality of care for people with learning disabilities or autism.

Update on the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training in learning disability and autism 

The Learning Disability Mortality Review (LeDeR) Programme annual report in 2018, highlighted further evidence of the high number of preventable deaths - and disparity in age at death - for people with learning disabilities and the general population. This disparity is 27 years for females and 23 years for males. The tragic death of teenager Oliver McGowan prompted the government's response 'Right to be heard’ in November 2019 to commit to introducing mandatory training in learning disabilities and autism for all health and social care staff and to name the training after him.

As a result, HEE and Skills for Care are working on the development and trial of a standardised training package called the Oliver McGowan Mandatory Training in Learning Disability and Autism. We have received tenders and are in the process of selecting suppliers to work with us on this. Once contracts have been awarded, we will agree the timeline for delivery and announce our new partners. We remain committed to this training, which is essential to ensure the health and wellbeing of those with a learning disability and autistic people.

Providing help for families and carers during the pandemic and beyond

Some families and carers looking after those with learning disabilities or autism, may need extra support at this time. We are promoting awareness of two resources on Positive Behaviour Support (PBS). PBS is a person-centred approach to bring long-term support to people with a learning disability, autistic people or those who have both, who have or may be at risk of developing, behaviours that challenge - this includes children, young people and adults.

This video aims to give healthcare staff an awareness of what can cause challenging behaviour and what can be done to support people and families before medication or admission become options. This resource on the HEE Star also has information about PBS. Please share these with families and carers of people with learning disabilities and autistic people, learning disability employers and voluntary sector organisations working in this field.

Useful links

Education and skills development

Education and skills development are about all the ways healthcare staff can learn to do their roles to support people with a learning disability, autism or both. It includes how healthcare staff become trained, qualified and stay up-to-date.

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Staffing is about how we plan to make sure there are the right number of trained staff, now and in the future.

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